Nearly 9 in 10 children ages 5-11 who were hospitalized for COVID-19 from mid-December to late February were unvaccinated, a rate that was two times higher than for vaccinated children, a new government study shows.

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also found that about one-third of hospitalized children in that age group had no underlying medical conditions and one-fifth were admitted to intensive care.

The study included about 400 children, ages 5-11, admitted to hospitals in 14 states during the winter Omicron variant surge. The hospitals serve about 10% of the nation’s population.

Among the children who tested positive for the virus before or during their hospitalization, three-quarters were admitted primarily for COVID, rather than other illnesses, the CDC said.

The findings are the latest to show that vaccines reduce children’s risk of hospitalization due to COVID-19, even though the shots are less effective against Omicron, the New York Times reported.

The study also suggests that racial disparities in vaccinations may be putting Black children at greater risk for severe COVID.

About a third of unvaccinated children were Black — the most of any racial group — and Black children accounted for about one third of hospitalizations, even though 2020 census data shows that they make up about 14% of children ages 5-11, the Times reported.

Only seven states and Washington, D.C., report race data for vaccinated children from 5 to 11, the Times said. In most of those states, Black children were inoculated at lower rates than white children, an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found earlier this month.

Among all ages, Black Americans are less likely than white Americans to be vaccinated, the Times said.

“Increasing vaccination coverage among children, particularly among racial and ethnic minority groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19, is critical to preventing COVID-19-associated hospitalization and severe outcomes,” the CDC study authors wrote.

As in adults, Omicron appears to be causing less serious illness in children than the Delta variant. However, Omicron is very contagious and has infected so many children that their hospitalization rates were higher during the Omicron surge, the agency explained.

Only about a third of U.S. children ages 5-11 have received at least one COVID-19 shot, which is the lowest rate of any age group. And there’s been a significant slowdown in the pace of vaccinations among children in that age group in recent weeks, the Times reported.

More information

Visit Johns Hopkins Medicine for more on kids and COVID.

SOURCES: CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, April 19, 2022; New York Times

Source: HealthDay

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